We were invited by Burmester to visit Berlin at the time of the launch of the new BC150 floorstanding loudspeaker. This new speaker design is an impressive statement; not only in terms of its physical presence and its £97,500 price tag, but in the sheer amount of research and development engineering that went into the project. This is more of a first look than a full-blown review (for that, you’ll need to check our 200th Issue), to accompany the launch and its first showing at the Hong Kong show this weekend. COVID-19 restrictions prevent us from travelling to that show (and even travelling between the UK and Germany is currently not without its privations), but the BC150 is a significant landmark for Burmester and high-end loudspeakers in general.
Just a look around the specification sheet shows why the BC150 is notable. Each BC150 weighs in at a shade under 200kg, a figure achieved by using a combination of aluminium, MDF, and steel (where appropriate) for a cabinet. This trio of materials combine (aided by some carefully chosen visco-elastic materials) making a cabinet that maximises the benefits of all three materials while minimising their own respective downsides. An aluminium frame with MDF housings and steel plates, carefully bonded together is a rare and uniquely successful approach in making a cabinet as non-intrusive and non-interactive as possible.
Each component or subsystem in the BC150 is given the same uncompromising, obsessive-compulsive approach to design and engineering. Alongside the two AMT folded ribbon tweeters (one front firing; a second, smaller and rear-mounted for adjusting spatial properties in room), the midrange is a Scanspeak design, heavily modified to Burmester’s spec. That last sentence needs exploring; usually ‘heavily modified’ means “can you put our name on the front of the basket?” not “can you change the dust-cap for a phase plug, can we make that phase plug oval, and can we revise the doping materials on the paper of the cone, please? Thanks!”. In fact, when it comes to the side-firing bass unit, Scanspeak liked Burmester’s changes so much, they retrofitted many of them (such as beefing up the magnet) into their own designs.
The crossover too, shows just how seriously Burmester is taking things with the BC150. The board is large, populated with the highest grade components (many of which are ‘potted’… more on that later) and then sits on its own suspension system within its own chamber inside the loudspeaker. Short of playing the loudspeaker during an earthquake, nothing’s going to trouble that crossover. Furthermore, because it’s going to have to handle some high power, everything is built to last. Perhaps the adjustment for the rear-firing tweeter highlights this best; rather than a simple potentiometer mounted in the rear of the loudspeaker, Burmester went the extra mile and built its own stepped attenuator. No one else does this!
Those aforementioned potted capacitors are a part of Burmester going the extra mile once more, in that the BC150 is one of the few passive loudspeakers to achieve UL certification. This means every aspect of the loudspeaker needs to be tested for fire safety, and usually applies to electronic components. Granted, if you are sufficiently infernoed to be concerned about the potential for loudspeaker terminals or internal capacitors in a crossover network to either catch fire or release toxic fumes, it’s probably already a bit late, but the fact Burmester even considered going the distance on this is impressive in its own right.
One of the things you should get from all this is that the engineers in Burmester are driven by passion, and it’s a passion that is shared by the people who end up buying the loudspeakers and enjoying them. OK, few engineers are unmotivated by their own projects, but to create a project like this, you need engineers who will spend hours on end talking about the design of the BC150’s feet, and how many iterations they went through to create the right dial-in adjustable foot sitting on its own bearings. They’ll even tell you about the creation of the tool used to adjust that foot with the kind of bright-eyed enthusiasm you might use to describe your child’s first day at school.
Of course, all that passion and obsessiveness is as nothing if the loudspeaker itself does not perform in the listening room. However, that attention to detail pays off as the BC150 is one of the most detailed, exciting, dynamic and transparent sounding loudspeakers you can hear. There’s also a distinct family sound emerging that follows in these lines, from the B38 up to the vast BC350, they have a lot in common; just that the further up the line you go, the more dynamic range, volume headroom and detail from a cabinet that does an increasingly impressive vanishing act. Granted, a loudspeaker like the BC150 needs a lot of quality electronics upstream, but that’s something Burmester already knows well, and having these loudspeakers driven by a pair of 911 mk3 power amps running in bridged mono mode is a perfect way of delivering a truly outstanding performance.
As discussed earlier, we are keeping at least a little bit of our powder dry for our upcoming 200th Issue, but the sound of the BC150 is extremely impressive. For such an imposing loudspeaker, it’s remarkably fast and musically reactive; transients hit home with speed and precision, making many ‘boxes’ sound like, well, boxes. These loudspeakers are too substantial to be a point source loudspeaker (unless you were playing them in a room about the size of Berlin itself), but the speed of the BC150 suggests otherwise; One of my regular recordings is ‘Memphis Soul Stew’ by King Curtis [King Curtis Live at Fillmore West, ATCO], not just because it’s an unsullied live mix taken almost directly off a desk a few days before King Curtis’ murder, but because each musician in the group is a master in their own art. I mean, every other drummer tries – and usually fails – to deliver a Purdie Shuffle, but when you have Bernard Perdie himself playing that shuffle, it’s like a lesson in the craft. Similarly, getting to hear Cornell Dupree play that funky rhythm guitar sound with licks he invented, and so on… you couldn’t ask for a better lesson. Any speaker that can keep up with these musicians is impressive in the extreme.
The vanishingly low cabinet coloration not only acts to keep the BC150 fast, it keeps it extremely detailed too. This is a loudspeaker that throws the window wide open on your music. Pick an instrument, preferably a solo instrument on a well-recorded album; that instrument sounds detailed, articulate, and physically ‘there’ in the room, solidly placed within a wide soundstage that projects slightly into the room, but not so much as to be intrusive. It’s detailed and precise enough that colorations are more likely to be to do with the room than the speaker, and many of those are ‘nailed’ thanks to the rear-firing tweeter. The BC150 loudspeaker is an audio reproduction instrument of high-precision, and as such if your room has a bit of a mid-range hump, you’ll notice it more immediately here. Given the BC150 and the company it keeps, that’s no bad thing, as room acoustics should be a strong consideration at this level. But, regardless, listening to something like ‘Love in Vain’, by the Rolling Stones [Stripped, Polydor] and you get to hear Jagger’s voice unsullied by the speaker itself; other speakers seem to play something more like an impression of Mick Jagger by way of comparison.
Then there’s the bass. Lung-emptying, bowel-clearing, demolition-grade bass that you can feel at the back of your eyes. Given some heavy-set amplifiers feeding the BC150, the likelihood is either you or the room give up long before the loudspeakers have hit their end-stops. I routinely use ‘Chameleon’ by Trentemøller [The Last Resort, Poker Flat] because its fast, deep, near-square wave synth bass is a torture test of ported loudspeakers. Here, however, the depth and intensity of that bass is enough to reflect the torture back on the listener… there are big, nasty things lurking in that recording, and the BC150 isn’t afraid of letting them out to play.
Perhaps most importantly though, that bass is like the rest of the frequency range; very well integrated. Everything hangs together well in the BC150, almost in the way a simple but well-made two-way loudspeaker can. The engineering that makes that effortless integration is extremely hard to do, and even some of the big names in high-end sometimes struggle with a sound that is more individuated ‘bass-midrange-treble’ than an integrated, musical performance.
I’m mindful here that this could sound like an ‘all detail, no fun’ loudspeaker. There are some high-end loudspeaker designs that make music a sterile, if detailed, event. There are others that go for the sense of occasion, at the expense of transparency, clarity and detail. Few manage to have feet in both camps, and the BC150 is one of those rare exceptions that are both musically communicative and musically analytical at the same time. That’s a heady mix, but might require some sensory readjustment on the part of the listener; we are used to having to make a choice in this trade-off, and the first time you get to experience both the detail and the musical intention that underpins that detail, it can be a daunting experience. Don’t be surprised if that doubles your listening energies at first, but you soon get past this and will find the sound just beguiling and inviting you to play further.
This is an important loudspeaker for Burmester, as the brand has been through a quiet patch of late (in fairness, given COVID-19, who hasn’t?). This is clearly not a brand that rests upon its laurels, though, and the BC150 shows Burmester’s high-end approach is equally at home making ultra-high-grade loudspeakers as it is producing top-end electronics and the best in automotive entertainment.
This is not the only new product from Burmester, and – in looking around the R&D department in the Berlin factory – and to quote Rutger Hauer’s Roy Batty character from Blade Runner, “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.” OK, so no attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion this time but not just Burmester’s new 217 turntable… new products in the company’s traditional audio lines, and beyond.
- Type: Three-way bass reflex floorstanding loudspeaker
- Drive units: Air Motion Transformer tweeter (front and rear), 180mm midrange, 320mm woofer
- Crossover frequencies: 155Hz, 1.8kHz
- Frequency response: 34Hz-20kHz ±3dB
- Sensitivity: 88.5dB at 2.83V/1m
- Nominal impedance: 3Ω
- Nominal load capacity (DIN EN 60268-5): 400W
- Dimensions (WxHxD): 30.9×60.1×143.3cm
- Weight: c195kg per loudspeaker
- Price: £97,500, €98,000 per pair.
Burmester Audiosysteme GmbH
The Burmester Audiosysteme GmbH press release:
Burmester Audiosysteme GmbH Releases Loudspeaker BC150 and Turntable 217
— In line with announcements made earlier this year, Burmester Audioysteme GmbH debuts two new products in its home audio segment
— New products include a set of loudspeakers, the BC150, as well as a turntable, the 217
— Both products will be showcased for the first time on the Hong Kong High End Audio Visual Show, starting August 6th, 2021
— Burmester will develop and release further electronic components within the next 12 months
BERLIN/HONG KONG, AUGUST 4TH 2021: Following statements made earlier in 2021, Burmester Audiosysteme GmbH today announces the debut of two new products in its home audio segment. The company had dedicated itself to developing new products in its core business as part of its ambitions to grow internationally.
The company remains dedicated to its quality promise, sourcing more than 95 percent of its materials locally and relying purely on handmade manufacturing processes in Germany.
Beginning with the new BC150 loudspeakers, Burmester has translated and extended the innovation leaps from its benchmark-setting BC350 loudspeakers and brought into a more compact form.
“The BC150 brings clarity and purity of sound to another level. The time and dedication our engineers spent on its development have really paid off and will be felt from the first second the loudspeakers go on”, says Thorsten Poenig, Chief Sales Officer.
The BC150 is available for orders with Burmester now. First products will be ready for international sale starting November 2021.
In addition to a new set of loudspeakers, Burmester is bringing an electronic component to market: the new Burmester turntable 217. Inspired by the multiple award-winning 175, the new 217 prioritizes optimal playback quality and is equipped with two belt drive motors.
“The 217 extends our product portfolio in the vinyl playback field. During the R&D processes, we could draw on more than 35 years of processing experience with the highest-quality phono signals, which allowed us to set a new benchmark”, comments Poenig.
The 217 is available for orders with Burmester now. First products will be ready for international sale starting October 2021.
Both products are being displayed to the public for the first time during the Hong Kong High End Audio Visual Show at the Convention and Exhibition Centre, between August 6th and August 8th, 2021, where Burmester will be represented.
“The Hong Kong Audio Show is the first international event for Burmester to engage with its customers and the audiophile community in an exceptionally long time. We are grateful and proud that we are bringing new products with us, that will accelerate that feeling of excitement”, says Dina Hoenge, Chief Marketing Officer.
With the debut of both products, Burmester is kicking off a series of market launches that will stretch throughout the next 12 months.
“Burmester has a clear strategic focus: to develop and produce more ground-breaking products for the German and international High-End market”, says Marianne Burmester.
During months of lockdown, the company shifted capacities to reach this goal. The company also recently launched an internal vaccination program for all its employees to provide a safe working environment as soon as doses became available.
“Because of our dedication to put our employees’ health first, we have successfully maneuvered through the pandemic without any interruptions of business. This has given us the opportunity to leverage our production and assembly capabilities”, Marianne Burmester comments. The company is planning to announce further new products to its dealer network within the next quarter.
ABOUT BURMESTER AUDIOSYSTEME
Burmester Audiosysteme GmbH is one of the world’s most renowned manufacturers in the field of high-end audio systems. The owner-managed company based in Berlin was founded in 1977 by Dieter Burmester. With a clear focus on home and automotive audio, Burmester maintains global collaborations with industry leaders in other industries (including Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and the Königliche Porzellan Manufaktur Berlin, among others) and is a member of Meisterkreis Deutschland and Initiative Deutsche Manufakturen.